To most, Augustana University is a place of routine. There is a beginning to the time spent here, as well as an end. But for students and faculty members alike, Augustana is home and, in the end, everyone leaves their mark on this place.
This is the lesson that Patrick Hicks, English professor and writer-in-residence, includes in his poem, “Here and Then.”
Commissioned by the university, the poem is meant to be a testament to the retired president, Rob Oliver, who left a mark of his own after his 25-year service.
According to Oliver, being the subject of the piece was an honor.
“It is a fabulous piece and I am honored that he wrote that for us,” Oliver said. “It means a lot to me. I am just really thrilled that he is getting recognition because he is such a talented writer and a beautiful wordsmith.”
But for the university’s writer-in-residence, the meaning of the poem goes even deeper.
“‘Here and Then’ is about the retirement of Rob Oliver, but in my opinion it is not about one person, but [about] what all of us bring together in campus life,” Hicks said. “I was commissioned by the university to write [the poem], so the question was how to write it to speak widely to people.”
The poem had no problem reaching audiences, being the subject of a video created by Mud Mile Communications, with English professor Sandra Looney as the poem’s narrator.
“I think that the lines of the poem so brilliantly tell about time passing, about college and about what the campus means,” Looney said. “It is a beautiful piece, and I am proud to be the voice of the video.”
Mud Mile has done other videos for Augustana in the past, but this one was especially memorable for them.
“Because of the strength of his work, we were able to weave the words from professor Hicks’ [poem] with iconic images of Augie to produce a video that was used throughout the presidential transition to tell the story of President Oliver’s legacy,” the owner of Mud Mile, Jolene Loetscher, said.
Besides producing the video, Mud Mile also decided to submit a nomination for the poem to receive an Emmy.
“We submitted professor Hicks’ poem about President Rob Oliver for nomination because it eloquently embraces the impact of President Oliver and the continuation of his legacy in supporting the new season ahead for Augustana,” Loetscher said.
Hicks is nominated for Best Writer of a short form work for the Upper Midwest Emmys, representing Minnesota, Iowa, Western Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Submissions come from television stations, advertising agencies and creative writers.
Hicks sees the nomination for the award as a true honor.
“I am just deeply surprised and honored to be able to say the I am an Emmy nominated writer,” Hicks said.
The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on Oct. 7 at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minn.
In the short form category, Hick’s poem will have to compete with five others in the category.
Here and Then
—for Rob Oliver
There is a clockwork rhythm to college life
as students arrive with their new backpacks,
raw hope, and the nets of their minds.
All teachers know that rebirth comes in autumn,
that new life begins in September,
when books, like eggs, hatch open.
Seasons flicker from snow to slush to bloom,
until, one day, our students dress in black—
the color of accomplishment—
and step forth, holding the passports of their diplomas.
Once the tattered books are boxed away,
the car is loaded, and memories cinched into place,
it’s easy to glance back at the first time
we walked on campus, dazzled by the unfamiliar.
We all leave, eventually,
but each departure becomes an arrival
The retirement of a president is no different.
It is a graduation of forward movement.
The links between Esbjorn and Oliver,
are a necklace of days, binding the past to the past.
Now, as one president turns to leave,
and another readies herself to step into the unfamiliar,
we look back on buildings that were lifted from blueprints—
of a library and laboratories cemented into place,
of lighting lamps, planting seeds, and celebrating the horizon.
Who says a single person can’t make a difference?
Our students live on in memory long after
they become that which they dreamed,
and so it is with all who leave
their ghostly mark on this place.
In this sense, we never really depart—
our voices echo in the halls,
lifting now, like bells ringing out time,
calling the next generation to this campus, this home.